Zen is Going to Hell

morning blast from Dosho Mike Port’s lawn:

Zen Hell

James Ford – I think for me the great matter is the work of Zen practice. Priest training is about ministry, if not career, try making a living as a Zen priest in the West…

Ken Collier – Right livelihood is not about making a living. It’s about how one actually does live.

Patrick Murfin – Isn’t everything the Boomers’ fault? We evidently are one nasty generation…

James Ford – That’s pretty much my observation, Patrick.

Henry Grevemberg – I think the hand-off to the next generation is what this is all about. the first wave of Zen masters passed the lineage down the pipe, to what end? What shape are we in now, with the Western masters at the helm? are they connecting to new students? do they have a compelling aura? is there somewhat of a crumbling facade? are there any bold upstarts? any gen X candidates being groomed? is this the new “self-help” genre many fear it’s devolving to? are there any fully enlightened Zen masters firing their cannons, besides Genpo? 🙁 — the “boomer” label is hardly the issue.

Bev Thornton – Boomers? It’s a class issue, not age.

Henry Grevemberg – “the rather intense ambivalence to awakening that we find in the Zen whirl today” – great..

Julie H. Rose – It’s both an age and class issue, which makes a lot of sense, considering how lucky the early baby boom generation was in terms of economics.

Karen Maezen Miller – Half a century later, someone digs up Dogen, who all the while was undisturbed.

Ben J Hutchison – this degenerative age. Right?

Jeremy Williams – I think the Five Mountain Zen Order offers some good alternatives/options/ideas in regards to some of the problems addressed in this article. It is not obviously the ONLY option and may not be for everyone, but a possibility. Check out the Five Mountain Zen Order “the monastery without walls” @ http://www.fmzo.org/ I think the approach of this Sangha is just what modern, western culture and young (&old) people can benefit from. I founded and lead a Zen Sangha here in Tampa, FL and have joined this larger Sangha. Sure, face to face meetings with a teacher and a Sangha are ideal, but for many (which was also true of my situation for many years) it is not always possible and while much of the “True” work must and only be done by the individual, a teacher and other Sangha members help best to encourage you and promote your practice. We should use technology such as the Internet, Facebook, & Skype, etc, just as this forward thinking Sangha is doing so we can meet face to face in the virtual world often and when possible meet in the “real” world for retreats etc. They are a good group of mostly young (although older root teachers as well), middle-aged men and women, black/white/etc, LGBT/straight, single, married, with and without kids, etc, etc. in other words a very diverse group of people with a passion for the Dharma/Buddhism/Zen/Sangha and just plain helping each other and this world. I think many would like it and benefit from it, I certainly have and really enjoy the new friends and opportunities for myself and my local Sangha being a part of this wonderful group. There are opportunities for formal and informal study with a group and with multiple teachers, local Sanghas and retreats both virtual and in the real world from time to time. I know there will be some purists and others that will think this group is too young, meeting online is not good, etc etc, but each person can check it out and make their own decision, just as the Buddha taught, check it out, if it works, keep at it, if not, discard it and move on. Just my thoughts/2cents.

Ben J Hutchison – I also think it is a generational issue. We now expect everything to just come to us like high speed internet. The market is full of books, we have skype, so why should a young person step out of their door and walk drive or fly to a zen center? The world around us tries to convince us that media is an answer for a real person. I love books. I love videos. But that’s not a teacher.

Spencer Shouzen Biegel – Thanks for this article. I am not too familiar with the going ons in Soto temples within the U.S. However, as a Rinzai priest the emphasis on deep practice and taking it all the way in order to save all beings is the primary focus. This being said, it is still incredibly important to build community and respond, at least a little, to the needs of the Sangha. Buddha did teach skillfull means. Concerning Dharma tranmission, if a practioner takes 20 years to be sanctioned to teach then it takes 20 years. Quality and not quantity is what should be emphasized. To be guided by ones elder is an honor and something that is perhaps being lost to younger generations. Thank you.

Koro Kaisan Miles – It’s nice to see people catching on. Dharma transmission is about our awakening and transmitting Dharma, not about making professional teachers. This is just another example of mistaking the finger for the moon.

Stephen Slottow – “Fully enlightened Zen masters firing their cannons, besides Genpo?” Unpack this a li’l?

Henry Grevemberg – Stephen, sarcasm, in context. loud noises. glitter.

Reuben Bruchez – Maybe the problem, if there is one, is that when we wake up with a bit of youth and time on our sides, we see service needed by the world and get diverted from the echo chamber of the cycle of retreats needed for training and dialog with a teacher who can offer transmission.

Phil Dickinson – “What does seem clear is that the Zen brand in the US – at least in most places – is a generational expression of the dharma that does not speak clearly to younger people.” Hmmmm.

Stephen Slottow – Well, I think that Mr. Dickinson’s quote is largely true, and has been for a long time. As Zen teachers proliferate, Zen students dwindle. There are other forms of Buddhism that seems much more popular. I wonder if Zen’s non-missionary stance has something to do with it…perhaps we need more outreach?

Stephen Slottow – Sometimes I think that the “third stream” people seem more successful at bringing in younger folk: Pat Hawk’s contemplative retreats, Ruben Habito’s Maria Kannon Zendo, James Ford’s Unitarianism + Zen.

Henry Grevemberg – It takes a long time to see any results in an often discouraging, humbling series of trials. In my case, it was 20 yrs before I was able to sit well, this something of an accident – I just did a talk on this at DZC, recorded here:

The Art of Meditation

2 thoughts on “Zen is Going to Hell

  1. Numbers are never on the side of Zen. But time is. It’s a good talk for anyone who cares to listen.

  2. hgrevemberg says:

    Thank you Maezen – always a pleasure to hear from you. Further along on this subject, a perfect insight from LA-Tu’s Direct Realization:

    “The matter of Zen is only realized directly by people of superior faculties; those of mediocre and lesser potential have no part in it. Without opening any doors or setting out any pathways, it presents the whole right to your face, to be personally realized, attained, without any further how or why.
    Speaking in extreme terms, the statement, ‘This very mind is Buddha’ says it all. This statement, however, is still in the realm of inducement, if you actually understand it, every breath is cut off, all conceptions are cut off – you just silently accord, that’s all. Otherwise, you are mistaking your consciousness for the master.”

    For me, the deep state of meditation not only cuts thinking, but the breath as well. What may be mistaken here as a metaphor is actually a very accurate description.

Leave a Reply